Many businesses have had to make spending cuts due to the coronavirus pandemic, and the latest IPA Bellwether report reveals a record decline in marketing budgets in 2020.
But according to B2B marketing expert Miriam Drahmane, now is not the time to put the brakes on your marketing activity. Whilst companies must avoid making any knee jerk reactions, Miriam advises that any marketing efforts should be underpinned by a robust strategic plan that ties directly back to the financial goals of the business.
Miriam is CEO of Chamber member BCM Agency, a strategic B2B marketing communications agency based in Bedfordshire. BCM works with clients in a range of sectors but has specialist expertise in manufacturing, engineering and construction. Where they add the most value is with companies who are selling to particularly complex decision-making units.
Describing themselves as “strategic doers who simplify the complicated”, Miriam and her team work across five key pillars: strategic planning and research, branding, content, digital and lead generation. Their key focus is in cognitive marketing; truly understanding who the decision-makers are so companies can connect with them on a personal level.
We spoke to Miriam about B2B marketing in the current climate and how companies can get the most out of their marketing efforts.
How do you think B2B companies are feeling about marketing in the current climate?
“I think most companies fall into one of two camps. There are those who are holding onto their purse strings, understandably so, and keeping an eye on their base costs. Marketing, unfortunately, together with things like training, historically have been the first to go.
Then you have other companies that understand now is the time to have a greater presence in the market place. Greater voice equals greater share of market. However, some of these companies might be going out with something in the moment, but don’t necessarily have a robust strategy behind those communications.
But what we do know, as is evident from after World War II and after the 2008 financial crisis, is that companies that invest in their marketing come out the other side with a greater share of wallet.”
“There are those who are holding onto their purse strings, understandably so. Then you have other companies that understand now is the time to have a greater voice in the market place.”
How can B2B companies ensure they get the most out of their marketing budgets?
“45% of companies don’t have a clearly defined marketing strategy, but those that do are undoubtedly more successful. Every company should have a marketing strategy that is aligned with the financial goals of the business.
Creating a strategic plan is about looking at the overall financial goals of the business and drilling backwards to determine average customer values to work out how many new customers you need, and how many you need to retain. And then working that back so the marketing activity has real targets and KPIs set against it.”
Aside from strategy, what other things should B2B marketers be focusing on?
“I think the main thing at the moment is to take a step back and not make knee jerk reactions. If you haven’t already got a strategic plan, then work with an agency or consultancy who can offer a fresh perspective and help you create a plan that aligns with your financial goals.
You must consider your positioning. You need to either win on differentiation or distinctiveness. What truly makes you different or more memorable against your competition? Are you adequately mapping out the value you can offer to your customers?
If you’re selling widgets into a company, you’re not just selling widgets. You’re saving that company time, money, effort and energy. The key thing is to understand what you’re bringing to the table - your value proposition. Then it’s about distilling that value proposition into visuals and words that will resonate with the decision-making unit.”
“The main thing at the moment is to take a step back and not make knee jerk reactions.”
The B2B decision-making process can be long and complex, what does this mean for B2B marketers?
“In B2B on average you have seven people involved in the decision-making process, and tackling that group as one is ineffective. You might have an MD, a Finance Director and a Chief Marketing Officer, for example, who are all part of the decision-making unit (DMU), and the messages you need to give those people will be considerably different. It’s really important that you understand the profile of each persona so you can craft the right messaging.”
How do you think Covid-19 has impacted B2B decision-making?
“In times like this, the DMU can become quite fractured, be it through furlough or restructuring in an organisation. You’ve also got people working remotely, so their normal way of working has changed and in some cases it may be more disjointed, causing the decision-making process to become even longer. On the flip side, some decisions are being made very quickly as companies are thinking they need to act fast.”
What tips would you offer to B2B companies looking for an agency to work with?
“Getting the right agency for your business is key. At BCM we want to do right by the client, and so we may not be the best fit for every business. Things to consider are whether an agency has specific experience with B2B, as it’s very different from B2C and works on different principles. You also want to make sure they understand the complexity of your industry and have a good handle on the types of people you sell to.
Having good every day communication between you and the agency is equally important, as well as having regular meetings and being very clear on what the agency is accountable for. At BCM we believe marketing should pay for itself and the only way to achieve success is by measuring it; setting
clear goals and KPIs.”
- Keep investing in your marketing - What the economic recovery looks like will no doubt continue to impact what happens with marketing budgets, but Miriam’s key advice is that now is the time to act. So if you can, maintain those marketing budgets, and increase them if at all possible, but above all be smart with your marketing activity to ensure it achieves your objectives.
- Ensure your marketing is aligned with your financial goals - Avoid knee jerk reactions; every piece of marketing you do, whether it’s an email campaign, a blog, or a social media post, should lend itself to the financial goals of your business.
- Communicate your value proposition - Make sure you really consider the value you bring to your customers. What are the success factors that your product or service can help them to achieve?
- Tailor your messaging to different personas - Marketing to the DMU as one is ineffective. The messages that will resonate with the MD, the Finance Director and the CMO, for example, will need to be tailored.